“For me it was really the kids,” says Jessica Carroll, explaining why she and her husband Brian agreed to become lay chairs at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull for the 2017 Annual Catholic Appeal. “They are at the age, nine and ten years old, where we can have substantive conversations about showing charity through action.”
“When Father Marcello approached us to be the parish’s lay chairs, we not only felt honored, we felt that we were being given additional support for what we were trying to do at home,” agrees Brian. “Our parents are very giving. They were a model for us and we want to be a model for our kids.”
To assist in helping parishioners understand the goals of the Annual Catholic Appeal and the ministries and programs it assists, each parish has a lay appeal chair or, in the case of St. Catherine’s, a chair couple. “Jessica and Brian are very mindful of the needs of our wider community,” says Father Joseph Marcello, explaining his choice for this year’s parish chair couple. “I’m grateful for the great enthusiasm and commitment they’ve shown in their leadership role in our parish’s portion of the Annual Catholic Appeal.”
The couple has always been grateful for God’s gifts and appreciative of the strong community spirit at St. Catherine. “My sister had a stroke a couple of years ago,” says Jessica. “We saw the love of the community in the meals that were brought to our house, the prayers, the way people would stop after Mass and ask how she was. We saw firsthand that this is a caring, giving community. When Father Marcello approached us to be the parish lay couple for the appeal, we were honored.”
Even so, the Carrolls took time to sit down with their pastor and learn more about the many services the appeal aids. Although they were strongly connected to the St. Catherine community, they knew less about the breadth and depth of the programs the appeal supports throughout Fairfield County.
“We always knew that the appeal supported good things,” says Jessica. “For example, we knew about the Thomas Merton Center and the food pantry, but we weren’t aware of how much they were doing. They have a mail room for people who have no other address. They have shower days twice a week for their guests. After they shower, they get clean underwear and socks. Everybody deserves to feel clean.”
“Just learning about things like this makes us feel so very fortunate,” adds Brian.
He has already reached out to the community, and is on the board of the Boys and Girls Club in Stamford, but the ministries supported by the appeal turned his attention in a new direction.
“Previously, I would not have thought of the need to have the Queen of Clergy residence for retired priests. Even though our kids went to St. Catherine School, we were unaware of the way the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund will make Catholic school affordable for so many families. In so many ways, all over the diocese, we have learned about the vastness of the appeal. We have a better understanding about where the dollars are going.”
“The parish’s response to Jessica and Brian’s presentation at our weekend Masses was really enthusiastic, on two levels,” says Father Marcello. “On the one hand, people really responded to Brian’s concrete explanation of where the monies raised by the appeal go, and the good it does, and also they connected with Jessica’s personal witness to the kindness of our community to her family.”
The greatest praise, though, did not come from pastor or parishioners. As they put their faith into words before the entire parish, praise came from the source that inspired it most of all.
“When we were finished,” Brian recounts, “our son told us that he was so proud to see us up there.”
Encouraged by the praise that mattered most, Brian and Jessica will continue to learn more about the programs supported by the appeal and speak about it whenever they have the chance. “Let’s change lives,” Jessica says, “one person at a time.”
By Pat Hennessy
(For more information or to donate to the ACA, contact Pam Rittman: firstname.lastname@example.org or 203.416.1479.)